The San Francisco Ghost Hunt (www.sfghosthunt.com) was a two hour walk with several haunted places, many ghost stories, and even some magic performed by the host. It all made for a wonderful evening. Sorry that there aren't more photos, but we were experimenting with a new camera, and well, a lot just didn't turn out as well as we'd hoped.

The ghost tour group meets at the Queen Anne Hotel, which is located at 1590 Sutter Street at Octavia, in the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco.


Come along on a
ghostly journey...

Queen Anne Hotel

The Queen Anne Hotel building dates back to 1890, so it has a lot of history - and a ghost that makes an occasional appearance! The Queen Anne hasn't always been a hotel, though. It had several private owners through the years, including some sort of secret society that had something to do with astrology, but was originally Miss Mary Lake's School for Girls. Her office is now a plush guest room decorated in Victorian style that Miss Mary would no doubt approve of - and perhaps she does! Guests in the room have reported chilling cold spots, the sight of a misty figure and the intangible, comforting, female presence. More than one guest has awoken after turning in on a cold night to find that extra blankets had been mysteriously added to the bed sometime during the evening. One guest got in so late, and was so tired that he simply plopped down on the bed to sleep. Upon awakening, the surprised guest discovered that not only had he been covered, but the covers had been tucked in around him - something that he couldn't possibly have done! Be sure to check out their webpage.

Mary Ellen Pleasant

Mary Ellen Pleasant, born into slavery, was eventually called the "Mother of Civil Rights" from her work that she began in the 1860's. A biographer notes that her mother brought her up in the Voodoo religion, and that Mary herself was perceived to have the powers associated with a priestess. Whether she had supernatural powers or not, she certainly amassed a fortune in San Francisco - which was reportedly worth $30,000,000 at its height.

There is now a park and memorial plaque at the corner of Bush & Octavia streets, where her grand mansion once stood. She received the most wealthy and influential people of the town at her home, and it was said that Mary used hidden peepholes and passages to spy on her guests' conversations while she was out of the room. That gathering of confidential information could have been one way that she contributed to her fortune.

The legends of her Voodoo prowess abound to this day, however, and there have been many strange occurrences that have taken place in the park. People who say bad things about her in the park have had objects dropped on their head, or fallen suddenly as if pushed. The sudden appearance of a crow seems to herald Mary's presence, and she has even taken her human form and walked among the trees and bushes. If you make a respectful request of the Voodoo priestess on that corner, and find favor with Mary, it is said that your request will come true.

The Ghost Hunt Guide

Our guide for the evening, Jim Fassbinder, spun many an entertaining tale along the way. This gentleman certainly has a wealth of knowledge about San Francisco, and knows how to entertain. Jim even threw in a few magic tricks to keep the crowd entertained. He's been doing the Ghost Tour since 1998, and his experience shows.

By the way, on the San Francisco Ghost Hunt website, Jim gives the instruction: "This is a chilling supernatural adventure, please dress warmly." He is not kidding! Nights in the city get very cool, even in the summer, so dress appropriately!

...and Even More Spirits!

Our guide stopped often to point out something or tell a ghostly tale, and a few were about places that were in other parts of the city. Many involved the fact that San Francisco has very little unused ground, and as the city grew it became necessary to re-claim some of the areas that were graveyards. Many were moved to the city of Colma, which consists largely of cemeteries. There were some instances, however, when only the headstones were moved to save time and money (can anyone say, "Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist?) One of these places is in the Russian Hill area of town, where the San Francisco Art Institute is the site where many students have heard invisible footsteps coming up stairs, seen apparitions coming down the tower stairs, and heard deep, heavy breathing. The dark streets of the city were the perfect place to hear those chilling tales.

The Mansions Hotel

The Mansions Hotel at 2220 Sacramento Street is a San Francisco landmark that was built in 1887. The hotel was recently purchased and closed, and so when we went by on our Ghost Hunt we were unable to go inside. In fact, it was surrounded by construction barriers while the old hotel is being converted into condos or something like that. Our guide used to include the interior of the hotel on the tour, though, so he was able to fill in many details about the place.

The hotel had a display of photographs, witness affidavits, and seance transcripts to attest to the ghostly presences inside. Objects moved about by themselves in rooms, covers were pulled off of guests during the night, thumps and bumps and noises were heard in empty rooms and hallways, and apparitions even appeared to the guests.

One of the most active ghosts is said to be that of Claudia Chambers, niece of silver tycoon Richard Chambers who originally owned the home. Claudia died in the house under mysterious circumstances that the newspaper reported as a "farm implement accident". It was whispered that she was stabbed to death, or even cut in half. Our guide had his own story about what happened to her, and it made us wish that we could have stayed in the hotel just one night!

The Ghost Ship of San Francisco Bay

The 1886 windjammer "Balclutha", a three-masted, square-rigged schooner is permanently anchored at Hyde Street Pier for the public to enjoy. On some nights, however, a similar ship can be sailing through the fog of San Francisco Bay. Police receive phone calls to 911 saying, "the Balclutha has broken free and is drifting away!" That ship isn't the Balclutha, however - it is a ghost ship that occasionally sales the bay.

One of the most famous sightings was by the crew of the destroyer U.S.S. Kennison, which was returning from duty in the Pacific on the morning of September 15, 1942. It was cutting through the fog toward the Golden Gate Bridge, when seaman Howard H. Brisbane heard a series of faint hissing noises from his watch station, followed by creaking and popping sounds. As the morning fog lifted, Brisbane began to see a ship.

"It wasn't just any ship," Brisbane said. "It was an old-fashioned sailing ship, the kind with two masts and lots of rigging." He went on to say that it appeared to be unmanned, and that "She was unpainted, and the rigging was clearly dilapidated. "She was under full, but ragged, sail."

He called other sailors to come see the strange sight, and torpedoman Jack Cornelius informed the bridge about the strange ship. The event was noted and the ships log and forgotten, although the phantom schooner still makes an occasional appearance in the bay.

Alcatraz Spirits

We stopped at one point in the tour, right beside by Danielle Steel's huge mansion, to gaze out at the lights of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay. "The Rock" was one of the most famous maximum security prisons ever, and was home to legendary criminals such as, Al "Scarface" Capone, Baby Face Nelson, Robert "Birdman of Alcatraz" Stroud, "Machine Gun" Kelly, Alvin "Creepy" Karpowicz, and many more.

Several spirits are said to haunt Alcatraz. Cell 14 in "D Block" was one of the solitary confinement cells where prisoners were deprived of light, sound and human company - there is a cold spot in 14-D that is there on even the hottest day. The empty hospital is the origin of strange sounds, and the ghosts of three prisoners who died trying to escape in 1946 linger in the utility corridor of cell block C.

The Atherton Mansion

The Atherton Mansion is located at 1990 California Street, and was one of the final stops that evening. Forgive the photo, but we were still experimenting with the new camera. The story of this place is that it was built in 1881 by Dominga de Goni Atherton after her husband died. Her son George married an overbearing wife named Gertrude, and while drinking in a local tavern (perhaps to enjoy a night away from Gertrude) he was convinced to sail away on a boat to Chile. He died of kidney failure half-way there, and so the other sailors shoved his body into a barrel of rum and put the Atherton Mansion address on it. The barrel was dropped off in Tahiti, where another vessel picked it up and returned it to San Francisco. The family butler opened the barrel, and to the horror of Dominga and Gertrude, George's body was discovered inside.

The mansion changed hands several times, but in 1923 an eccentric lady named Carrie Rousseau bought the house and lived in the ballroom with her fifty-plus cats, until her death in 1974. The Atherton Mansion was then remodeled into apartments, where residents report cold spots moving about the house, winds blowing through the rooms, voices in the night, and knocking sounds on doors and in hallways. A seance held by paranormal researcher Antoinette May and medium Sylvia Brown revealed that there were four distinct presences in the house: the frail spirit of George, the nagging ghosts of Dominga and Gertrude, and Carrie Rousseau.

Flora's Ghost

One of the city's most famous ghosts is that of Flora Sommerton, a girl who disappeared back in 1876. As the legend goes, she ran away during a formal dance where her family had announced her betrothal to a older man. Fifty years later the body of a woman was found in a cheap motel room in Butte, Montana - as the country's missing persons reports were scoured to match her identity, the story of Flora's disappearance surfaced and the body was identified. Reportedly, she was wearing the same 19th century white ball gown that she fled San Francisco in. Many people have seen the ghostly figure of a young girl walking up and down California Street where she lived. She does not interact with anyone and seems oblivious to the modern traffic. Flora is always wearing the flowing, white gown, though.

We had a great time on the San Francisco Ghost Hunt, and really enjoyed the chilling stories - Thanks Jim!

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